Friday, August 7, 2009

Crazy Quilt

This past week, we've packed up our quilt collection, which includes crazy quilts such as this one, HLATC QPUS148. Crazy quilts, which gained popularity in the 1880s, are often pieced together from scraps of fabric belonging to family and friends, making them a lovely keepsake.

The maker of this quilt is Maude Cowen and her initials as well as her wedding date, June 19,1909, can be found embroidered on the piece. Maude used scraps of fabric from clothing belonging both to her and to her daughter, including pieces from Maude's own wedding gown. The quilt dates to 1933.

The photo below shows some of the preservation issues of crazy quilts. Using many different types of fabric means the surface of the quilt can deteriorate at dramatically different rates. Some fabrics are fairly stable, though crazy quilts tend to incorporate a lot of silk pieces, which are often very fragile. As the bottom half of the image illustrates, one scrap of the quilt can be in excellent condition while the one adjacent to it is completely deteriorated. Factors, aside from fiber content, that can affect the deterioration rates of fabric scraps are: the age of that specific scrap, any treatments the fabric may have had in the past (i.e. weighted silks) as well as what type of garment the scrap originally was a part of. For example, if the scrap was cut from a well worn silk shirt, which likely would've had been damaged by sweat and frequent washing, versus a piece of cotton fabric from a rarely worn skirt.

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